FOUR of the region’s top athletes did the district proud earlier this month when they competed at the inaugural Asia Pacific Special Olympics.
Guyra swimmer Sara Brazier, William Brundsdon and Maxwell Wayte of Armidale and Kleo Charnas from Uralla joined more than 2500 athletes from countries in the Asia Pacific region for the biggest celebration of people with an intellectual disability the country had seen.
The games got under way in Newcastle on December 2 after a spectacular opening ceremony at Hunter Stadium the previous day.
Athletes competed in sports across nine disciplines during the week-long event, including aquatics, athletics, cricket, table tennis, basketball, badminton, bocce, football and tenpin bowling.
Ms Brazier’s mum Lorraine, father Greg and sister Tori travelled to Newcastle to cheer her on.
“The opening ceremony was unreal,” Mrs Brazier said. “It was so exciting.”
“All the athletes walked out and they were like ‘oh my god’. Sarah was in the first row out with Australia and she was just overwhelmed by it all.”
Ms Brazier had a successful meet coming fourth in 4x25m individual medley and fifth in the 100m backstroke, but she saved the best for her last event, winning a silver medal in the 4x50m medley relay, swimming the backstroke leg.
“Just watching the smile on Sarah’s face when she won a medal” is a moment Mrs Brazier will never forget.
“We didn’t know where they actually came until they stepped them up on the podium,” she said. “It was pretty exciting.”
Ms Charnas also did exceptionally well, winning a gold in the 3kg shot put and silver in the 100m sprint.
She has been to numerous National Special Olympics and is one of the longest serving participants in the NWNE region.
Mr Wayte was captain of the 11-a-side football team which came fifth overall.
His Armidale compatriot, Mr Brunsden, competed in the tenpin bowling competition, coming second in the pairs, third in the team event and fifth in the singles.
Minister for Disability Services John Ajaka and member for Northern Tablelands Adam Marshall personally congratulated three of the athletes in Armidale last week.
“It’s great to see our local athletes competing on the world stage and doing so well,” Mr Marshall said.
“These sorts of achievements don’t happen on their own, and I thank the parents, siblings, families, friends and coaches that have helped our fantastic Special Olympic athletes achieve their best.”